Today we celebrate the feast day of St Gregory the Wonder Worker (also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus). I wanted to write about St Gregory because there are many people who believe that the concept of the Trinity was introduced into the Church at the Council of Nicea by Constantine and his “cohorts.”
I remember reading some pamphlet produced by the WatchTower a few years ago that was given to me by Jehovah’s (false) Witnesses. At that time, I was attempting to figure out what I believed. Was the church corrupt by the time of Constantine? Was the doctrine of the Trinity a heretical concept later introduced? I felt that Jesus was likely God incarnate, but I wanted to be open-minded to counterarguments. The pamphlet was so full of historical flaws, misquotes of ancient Christian texts, and bad philosophy that I tossed it aside.
Later, I stumbled across the works of St Gregory the Wonder Worker, who was likely born in AD 205 and passed away sometime between 265-270. Therefore he predated Constantine and was part of the Church that was surviving severe persecutions. Yet, in his writings he leaves no room for doubt in the Trinity. At the end, I have included a Declaration of Faith written by him.
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
St Gregory was born to pagan parents, but later converted to Christianity, finding the pagan philosophies to be unsatisfactory. He was baptized and trained in Christian studies and secular education for several years by Origen, to whom he wrote a letter of praise (A Panegyric to Origen).
With the strong encouragement of Origen, St Gregory used his talents to glorify God by strengthening the Christian flock. He was appointed bishop of Neo-Caesarea in the year AD 240. When he became bishop there were only seventeen Christians in that city. By the time of his repose, there were only seventeen unbelievers, so great was the Spirit of God upon him.
St Gregory was greatly loved by his flock. He was a brilliant theologian who preached well and was gifted with the ability to work miracles, hence the title given him. Due to his reputation, he earned the nickname “the second Moses.” His miracles include healing diseases, demonic exorcisms, the moving of earth and boulders by his word, causing himself and others to be invisible, bringing peace into the heart of man, and converting nearly everyone in his city to Christianity.
A DECLARATION OF FAITH
Possibly near the end of his life, tradition tells us that St Gregory prayed to the Lord and the Theotokos for direction on how to teach the Trinity. St John the Theologian and the Theotokos herself visited him and gave him the following:
There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son.
There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal.
And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged.
Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever.
Source of Text. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
St Gregory has several other works attributed to him as well: